"Where a clean river once flowed, it is now filled with waste. Clear water has now been replaced with a rainbow of colours reminiscent of the moi indie paintings - red, yellow, green, brown, and sometimes even black, depending on the toxic discharge from the factories upstream." (Artist's statement)
Indonesian artist Tisna Sanjaya purchased a plot of land in his hometown Cigondewah which had been adversely affected by rapid industrialisation and turned into a plastic waste dump, and built the Cigondewah Cultural Centre over it. The work of the centre is to rejuvenate the area and community, providing spaces for pigeon lovers to have races, football fields, and to engage and solve the environmental problems in Cigondewah. By contexualising social action as art, this erosion between "art" and "life" is posited as a metaphor for the need for the erosion of the boundaries between disclipines, ownership of works (art market), and local bureaucracies/social networks - in order to get things done.
Official opening speeches in Singapore are often crammed with pep rally platitudes, reiteration of mission statements, and upper management truisms. The very mention of the words "global city for the arts" is enough to induce teeth gnashing in those sensitive to bureaucratic speak.
But this time I was amused to hear the provost say that NUS takes an interest in art because (and i quote verbatim) "art is that distinguishing factor that will make Singapore a vibrant place to live, work and play".
Standing in front of Tisna Sanjaya's Cigondewah project, one wonders whether he actively realises that he's talking about the "qualities" which make Singapore more "livable" (what does Singapore have to do with it? why is he bringing up Singapore now?) in front of a show conceptualizing social changes / collective action to make Cigondewah more "livable" as art itself.
"seni sebagai jalan hidup" (art as a way of life)
ART = KAPITAL (Joseph Beuys)
i am often glad that I studied literature instead of fine art because i feel like writing is the most basic way to articulate an abstract idea. and art is just one scaffold that represents that abstract concept. yesterday I read Ban Kah Choon's essay "Narrating Imagination" - about the strength of metaphors/similes especially in the context of places with insufficient physical space (such as in Singapore). Where space (or lack thereof) needs to be de-emphasised, it is useful to speak of psychological spaces and to use abstract thought to divert attention away from the development of space. One doesn't even have to look to art for inspiration, for this is a common tactic used in Singapore politics!
From a post I made in 2007:
PM Lee, on the Gardens by the Bay: It is “far more impressive and convincing than any sales pitch by a minister, or a Powerpoint presentation by EDB. A potential investor who arrives in Singapore sees the greenery on the way from the airport to the city centre. He notices not just neatly manicured areas, but also patches of thick vegetation left undisturbed to be bird sanctuaries. He senses the planning, organisation and execution that has made this happen, the social discipline and the public standards that extend to all aspects of life in Singapore”.
National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan: "We have good infrastructure. You know that we've got a very business friendly environment; we have a favourable tax regime. But at the end of the day, the decision to locate and where to do business is also dependent on individual, how people live, how their family lives, how do they feel here. Do they feel safe here; do they have a good quality of life here? This is where the garden and greenery play a part. They are part and parcel of the whole total lifestyle package”.
I think we're pretty advanced with inventing metaphors here. After all, we're an entire nation built on imaginary constructs of what we want to be. Now, to follow in that tradition...